ASSOCIATION NEWS/John Arundel – Attacking ‘Bottlemania’

ASSOCIATION NEWS/John Arundel  –  Attacking ‘Bottlemania’

The folks at the International Bottled Water Association on Diagonal Road in Old Town would like to get a few misconceptions straight about that soon-to-be-released book, Bottlemania. 

The hardcover book by Elizabeth Royte, “Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It” was not due in bookstores until May 13, but on Monday, the team at IBWA was already working to drown some mis-truths about bottled water in the local reservoir.  

Number one, the focus on Bottled Water dilutes the real environmental and drinking water challenges and opportunities. Number two, Bottled Water is a healthy beverage produced by an industry with “an outstanding commitment to environmental stewardship.” And number three, the Bottled Water Industry doesnt compete with tap water and supports a strong public water infrastructure

The new book, Bottlemania, used the bottled water industry as a launch-point for what could have been an instructive view on the importance of drinking water and environmental protection and sustainability, said IBWA spokesman Tom Lauria. “Rather, the book presents a misinformed, slanted view of the bottled water industry that will only confuse consumers who choose the healthy benefits of bottled water and misdirect what should be an all-encompassing, science-based approach to environmental policy,” Lauria said. 

This week, Lauria and IBWA officials, who are the authoritative voices on all issues concerning the bottled water industry, were reaching out to journalists to provide “the facts” and offer up independent third-party experts for interviews and expertise on all topics water related.  

Lauria said that people recognize the importance of water consumption for hydration and refreshment and “that should be encouraged,” he said. “Many consumers likely drink both bottled water and tap water depending on the circumstances; it does not always amount to a tap water versus a bottled water choice,” he added. 

Bottled water is growing in popularity because consumers appreciate its consistent quality, taste, and convenience and choose bottled water over other beverages because it does not contain calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol and other ingredients. 

Point well taken; as a father of a five year-old constantly reaching for that sugared Slurpee on Richmond Highway, I’d much rather have him begging for an overpriced boutique bottle of water, even if it may cost more than an over-sugared Slurpee.
Lauria said the bottled water industry supports improvements to our nation’s water infrastructure.  The fact is, he said, bottled water companies that utilize municipal water systems are rate-payers; their production and sales have no relationship to water infrastructure challenges.  

And, just as local governments like Alexandria invest in providing safe municipal drinking water, bottled water companies invest many millions of dollars in developing water sources, production plants, packaging, and safety and quality measures.  

Yet, bottled water is available at a variety of price points, with an average per-gallon cost of $1.64, according to A.C. Nielsen.

Lauria said the bottled water industry is a leader in the food and beverage industry in reducing its environmental footprint while, at the same time, delivering the healthful value of bottled water.  “All bottled water containers are recyclable packaging and use lighter-weight materials than other beverages,” he said. 

The bottled water industry is working with other beverage and food producers, municipalities, and recycling advocacy groups to continually increase recycling.  Further, the bottled water industry is considered one of the original recyclers as the larger containers used on bottled water coolers may be used repeatedly and recycled at the end of their useful service. “Solely focusing on bottled water is not the right approach to implement effective environmental policies; broad ranging, comprehensive solutions that cover all consumer goods are,” he said.

Annual bottled water production accounts for less than 0.02 percent of the total ground water withdrawn in the United States each year. “The bottled water industry uses minimal amounts of groundwater to produce this important consumer productand does so with great efficiency,” he said. 

Even though it is a minimal groundwater user and is one of among thousands of food, beverage and commercial water users, “bottled water companies actively support comprehensive ground water management practices that are science-based, treat all users equitably, multi-jurisdictional, and provide for future needs.”

Finally, Lauria said, bottled water is comprehensively regulated as a packaged food product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which mandates stringent standards to help ensure bottled waters consistent safety, quality and good taste.  By law, FDA bottled water standards must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for municipal drinking water systems.

Furthermore, bottled water companies respond with “efficiency and speed” with regard to provide bottled water in coordination with emergency relief operations.  The bottled water industry provides millions of bottled water servings in response to natural and man-made disasters each year, he said.

Despite the rise of conglomerates like Coca Cola Companies getting into the bottled water craze, is still comprised of mostly small mom-and-pop water companies. More than 60 percent of the International Bottled Water Associations membership is made up of small businesses with annual sales of less than $1 million and a few employees, Lauria said, and the overwhelming majority have sales of less than $10 million.

Think about that the next time your kid reaches for a Slurpee.